Winter, 2003

Phyllis Holliday

Two Poems


After the Accident

So this is the way the brain goes;
It falls apart on the street.
And this is what comes of the body;
It's put in a machine in a room.

And this is where the body goes
When it lives and it lives against odds.
With all of the other bodies
In long yellow halls, in the yellowing arteries
Of a building like a brain unfolding.

And these are the people who care
For the bodies;
A nut, a crank and a goddess
In the long yellow halls on a hill.

And here are the people, companions
Of the maimed; a boy in a coma
Whose mother comes to call
Every morning for five years. Boy in the tubes.
And the legless, the armless, the voiceless,
The brainless or the brain intact
In a body in a bed. And the smell.
Oh what is that smell I asked one day.
It is talcum powder, urine, saliva, decay.

And this is the way
The mind returns;
Not in leaps, not in bounds
But in doses. And what is chemical
And what is magical I cannot say.
But minds do mend, a little.

So this is the way the mind wanders
To memory, to words, to past half-wrong.
It is called aphasia, amnesia, spasticity
Which sound like muses of the most
Primitive arts. Not song, poetry, dance.
But talk. A thought. A step.

And what shall we say of the half-life?
Of the twilight, false dawn, the half wit?
It is this; the mind cannot stand being lost
And it goes in the dark to half truth.

Incompetent, mentally unbalanced, disturbed;
A world of workshops, occupational therapy
Board and care; I have stood in line
With the berserk and the lame.
I am the mind behind the mind in the body.

So this is the life in the margins;
Our nerves and our minds are the treasure.
Love and luck live alongside witless lack
in the back. Underneath.

And this is the truth of one street
Where the mind lies, and the other half
Walks alive. It is deep, hard, unthinkable.
I think of it every hour.

It is burden, it is caring, it is calling;
It is that other wheel when before
I had three. I do not know why burden
Is in the circle. I know minds are lost
And found and changed.  
In The Heart There Is A Bell
In the heart there is a bell
And in the bell a hollow clapper
And in the clapper a little room
And in the room a blue cathedral
And in the cathedral an altar flame
And in the flame a voice, a song
And seven times all the night long
Seven songs, each song a rose
And in each rose a hurt, a hell
Lonely as a gargoyle squeak
Rising in waves to haunt; to speak
in gargles and gags of splinters and loss.

There is one way to keep off dying;
To turn to stone perfectly lying
But in each stone there lies a leaf
And in its veins traced belief
And in belief a well spun web
Of long dead spider; of all that's said
Beyond the sayings of lovers and friends
Lying in grass; Summer's demands;
Demands demeaning, demon driven
Spikes through granite, heaven
After heaven. There is no way for stone
To cover crack or ever spin
Web dust, wood lost, hearts bell
Hung silent. Wind will move
Light will steal
From sun to moon. I know a grove
Of trees and webs; of lying leaves.
This I know--what sings, unknown
And rings unseen and lights and weaves.

When I came here I heard a bell
And where you walk I hear it well.